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School shut after suspicious blaze

PUBLISHED: 11:11 18 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:41 03 March 2010

ARSONISTS are believed to have broken into an Ipswich school and set alight a science laboratory - just yards from where hundreds of dangerous chemicals are stored.

ARSONISTS are believed to have broken into an Ipswich school and set alight a science laboratory – just yards from where hundreds of dangerous chemicals are stored.

The 870 pupils of Stoke High School, Maidenhall Approach, were all sent home for the day as police officers and fire investigation teams carry out enquiries.

The man in charge of leading firefighting crews, Sub Officer Pat Dacey, confirmed: "This incident is being treated as suspicious at the moment. It was quite obvious the laboratory had been broken into."

The crews were called at around 6.20am today when a caretaker arrived at the school and spotted smoke coming from the ground floor building. Two appliances from Princes Street arrived at the scene, with four firefighters using breathing apparatus to extinguish the blaze. It took them just over 45 minutes.

Sub Officer Dacey added: "There were a number of small fires that had been started in the laboratory. They were separate from each other and in the end did not pose a serious threat. As you would imagine in a science laboratory there were chemicals nearby but luckily they were not involved. Had the fire taken a major hold or not been spotted then it could have been a possibility.

"The main job of the fire crews was to extinguish the many separate fires and stop it from spreading. There was never any risk to any person, and that is the first thing we checked. We later carried out a search of the property and then carried out the ventilation of the building."

Police arrived soon afterwards and were expected to remain on the site for the rest of the day.

Scenes of crime officers sifted through the damage for any clues as to who the arsonists may be.

Soon after he arrived at the school headteacher Martin Liddle, said he had taken the decision to send home pupils for the day, and that a decision is yet to be taken on whether or not to give them the rest of the week off.

He said: "I think that looking at the smoke still coming out of the building in the school, that the school must close for pupils today. A decision is yet to be made about tomorrow, although Year 7 pupils going to France will still be going.

"I have been headteacher here for 18 years now and I have never known anything like this. It is very bad news."

The fire comes at a time when the school had joined together celebrating Book Week.

Anne Jackson, Literacy Co-ordinator at the school, said: "We have had such a fantastic week with the Book Week, with poets coming in and talking to the children, and everyone has enjoyed it. Now something as mindless as this has ruined it all. It is very sad indeed."

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